A new post for a new year. That’s what I was going to call this narrative on graham crackers, until it took me four days to actually write it. But never fear, I’ll be better in the future. That was one of my many many New Years resolutions. To post regularly. And now that I’ve told the world, or at least anyone who’s taking the time to read this, I’ll stick to it. I promise. I promise to post more regularly for my readers but also for myself. Here’s why:
I spent New Years Eve at my friend Paul’s farm in Wisconsin. Eighteen people made their way up, or down for those coming from the Twin Cities, to the farm. His family. Some family friends. His girlfriend. And all of us. That is, the ten of us who have been friends since the early years of high school and who have managed to stay close friends even though college has put us in different parts of the country and, at times, the world. When we all sat down to dinner, squeezed shoulder to shoulder at a long table, we dug into our bowls of chili. The murmur of conversation slowly grew to a gentle roar until Paul’s sister, Jane, asked us all to share the best or most significant part of our year. Going one by one around the table there were stories of a marriage in Minnesota, an almost arrest in Poland, and everything in between.
When the floor was mine I briefly mentioned my graduation, an apparently big deal, but I dwelled much longer on this blog. I started from the beginning recounting how Kelli had caught me reading food blogs during a meeting and how she asked why I didn’t start my own. How I gave it a moment of thought and almost just as quickly whipped up a batch of the best oatmeal raisin cookies I have ever eaten – no I’m not exaggerating – and composed my first post. And then I explained the really really important stuff about this blog. I explained how it has given me an opportunity to explore my creative side both in the kitchen and at the computer typing and typing away. How it forces me to take some time for myself and then share my passion with those I love and with strangers who just happen to stumble upon it.
We whiled away the time until midnight dancing, drinking, and talking and talking and talking. Midnight came and went but the festivities continued until we fell asleep in the early hours of the morning, me lying in a bed of pillows on the floor with Matt and Kent at my feet.
And here’s where these graham crackers come in. After driving to Wisconsin on Saturday and then back on Sunday, Monday I was departing for Montana. That’s right, driving to Montana with none other than Kelli who will be spending the winter working and skiing in Big Sky. Of course, no road trip is complete without car snacks, but given the number December did on my body I wanted a healthy snack. So these graham crackers, which have been sitting on my “to cook list” for all too long, found themselves being pulsed and chilled and rolled and baked and finally, as we drove mile after mile, eaten.
This is a good beginning to the new year. Friends, adventures, and food. A very very good beginning.
These graham crackers are not difficult to make by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a couple things to note. First, make sure to roll them out thin enough and, perhaps more importantly, evenly for both halves of dough. Otherwise you’ll end up with some slightly over cooked or undercooked. Second, you can cut these in the traditional graham cracker shape as the directions below indicate or you can cut them in 2 inch squares, which I attempted to do. If you decide to cut them in 2 inch squares simply cut the crackers every 2 inches instead of every 4 1/2 . Either way, make sure to measure the inches, a step I normally skip on (which is bad, very bad). This will help to ensure the crackers are uniform.
Makes about 24 crackers
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons (3 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse or mix on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off on and off, or mix on low, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse on and off a few times or mix on low until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a silicon mat or a large piece of lightly floured plastic wrap, then pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping, and set aside.
Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be sticky, so flour as necessary. Trim two parallel edges of the rectangle to 4 inches wide leaving the other edges to be as long as the rectangle allows. Working with the shorter side of the rectangle parallel to the work surface, cut the strip every 4 1/2 inches to make 4 crackers. (Alternately, see the headnotes if you prefer smaller 2×2 crackers.)
Place the crackers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar topping. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough. Gather any scraps together in a ball, chill until firm, and re-roll to make several more crackers.
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350° F.
Mark a vertical line down the middle of each cracker, being careful not to cut through the dough. Using a wooden skewer, prick the dough to form two dotted rows about 1/2 inch for each side of the dividing line.
Bake for 15-25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the tough, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. (Some of mine overcooked at right around 20 minutes. I suggest checking them a little bit before. They might be done and all the sooner ready to eat!)